She wanted to throw a party that included extended family. Since it would be her 10th birthday, we agreed it would be fun to celebrate her in a bigger way.

We planned a menu. Grape jelly meatballs, broccoli and cheese soup, and Costco cake were her requests.

The initial invites were sent to local family through a Facebook event, and to a few friends who seem like family.

She addressed the mailed invitations herself. I smiled at the thought of our loved ones getting a handwritten card with a kid’s writing sprawled across the front. The post office worker assured me they would mail the card even though I had to put the stamp in a funny place.

I bought her the happy birthday balloon, because I’m pretty sure we could gift her the world, and her favorite thing would still be a shiny helium balloon with purple, curly string.

The day of the party, Grandma helped decorate, and every square inch of the place said we’re so excited it’s your birthday. There was plenty of food.

After lunch, our girl knew the adults needed a few minutes to visit before she could open her presents. The wiggles weren’t because she needed to use the restroom at that precise moment. They meant it’s one thing for a 10-year old to know her manners, and quite another to carry them out in real life.

When it finally came time to open her gifts, I beamed with pride at the young lady opening all those presents. She read each card first, out loud, which maybe wasn’t necessary, but seemed thoughtful. She spent time looking at each gift, and made eye contact when she said thank you. 

It was probably enough. I don’t always ask her to do more, but this party felt special. So many people had gathered just for our little girl, and I was blown away by the kindness shown to her. 

We took the list of gift givers Grandma had written down for us, and that next week, I had our daughter sit down at the table and write 10 thank you cards.

Oh, the torture! We might have had to take a break to get our attitude in check. We compromised, and I agreed to address the envelopes if she would write the cards.

“Can I just say thanks for the gift,” she asked?

She knew the answer before she asked it. It’s one things for a 10-year old to know her manners, and quite another to carry them out in real life.

I told her she didn’t have to write all the cards in one sitting, but she opted to do so anyway. Each card included a thoughtful, personal sentence or two. She was done in less than 15 minutes. 

The lesson will last a lot longer than that though. That’s why I had her give the extra effort. I had her envision each person opening that note when it arrived in the mail. A handwritten thank you is a gift to the receiver, and the giver.

Traci Rhoades

Traci Rhoades is a writer and Bible teacher. She lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area with her family and an ever-changing number of pets. Connect with her online at or @tracesoffaith on twitter. She is the author of "Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost."